For the first time since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013, youth groups from Rubkona’s UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and those from Bentiu town, in North Liech State, came together to interact and exchange ideas during a joint training in peacebuilding and transformational leadership.
The groundbreaking exercise brought together 48 youth leaders, and their members, who had not met formally since the start of civil war due to political differences and perceived insecurity.
“This event marks the first step to healing and reconciliation in Unity State. Whether you are in the POC, or in Bentiu town, as a young person you belong to the Youth Union. That is why we should work together for peace in our state,” said Mr. Kong Kong, a youth leader from Bentiu Youth Union. Chairperson of the youth residing in Rubkona PoC, Mr. Both Mijiek, also emphasized the need for collaboration among the two groups of youth organizations.
The Bentiu Youth Union is present in 11 counties of former Unity State, while the Rubkona POC youth group is an amalgamation of 13 youth groups based in the camp. To prepare for the unprecedented joint training, UNDP organized several round table dialogues with leaders from each of the two youth groups. Then, the same groups of youth underwent a three day induction training, separately.
As a result of the ten-day peacebuilding and transformational leadership programme, the trainees from Rubkona POC and Bentiu town will form local peace committees, who will be instrumental in resolving conflicts around issues of cattle rustling, cattle migration, land disputes, and cultural disputes, including issues of gender-based violence.
The joint training was organized by UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion Project (PaCC), in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNMISS Civil Affairs Division. The training is part of the “Beyond Bentiu” project, jointly implemented by UNDP and IOM, and funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
During the opening of the training, Ms. Judy Wakahiu, project manager of UNDP’s PaCC project said: “UNDP supports grassroots initiatives to enhance peace and social cohesion, as development cannot be achieved without peace, and we cannot sustain peace without development. The role of the youth as agent of change for peace and cohesion is paramount in this case.”
Mr. Victor Famasa, acting head of UNMISS field office in Bentiu, said: “The partnership between UNDP and UNMISS has helped communities resolve myriads of problems not just in Bentiu but also in other parts of South Sudan.”
The trainers of this unique programme are drawn from the National Transformational Leadership Institute of the University of Juba, who have conducted similar peace committee trainings in targeted communities from Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western and Eastern Equatoria, Greater Jonglei, and the Lakes region. UNDP through both the PaCC project and the broader “Beyond Bentiu” programme, will seek to further strengthen social cohesion and inter-communal ties through joint sporting events, as well as theatre and cultural performances.
Prior to the training, UNDP commissioned the construction of a new youth centre in Bentiu town. The youth centre, which will consist of a conference hall, a cafeteria and kitchen, and an office block, is designed as a safe space for the youth to meet and discuss their collective issues, including peace and social cohesion.
“The new centre is timely because peace is coming to South Sudan and thus, the youth are ready to play their part in developing the state,” said Acting Governor of Northern Liech state Mr. Laraka Machar, referring to the agreement signed on 5th August 2018 in Khartoum, Sudan, during the commissioning ceremony. He also expressed his appreciation for UNDP for “partnering with the youth for development.”